From the 11th-15th September 2017, a team of ex rugby players and serving military personnel took on a 177-mile bike ride challenge from Calais to Laon in honour of those international and club rugby players who fought and died during the First World War.
The challenge culminated in a tightly contested match between Rugby for Heroes and a French Legends XV captained by ex-France international Serge Betsen.
As the bike ride got underway, it was soon clear that the challenge was going to be no easy feat. Driving wind and rain from the get go were not the best conditions, but morale was high and boosted by patron Mike Tindall, who saddled up and joined the team as they battled through the elements to reach Ypres and the Menin Gate memorial at the end of day one, a mere 83km later!
Conducting acts of remembrance at several key sites across Belgium and France was an important part of the ride for both ex rugby players and military personnel alike.
“As a nation, we come together to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice serving their countries in war. It feels very special to be able to pay our own tribute as members of the rugby community, to those who shared our passion for the game.” – Mike Tindall, Patron of Rugby for Heroes
We were given the honour of laying a wreath at the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, a truly humbling moment for all who took part. At Vimy Ridge and Thiepval Memorials, the team continued to pay their respects to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
The event raised awareness of the ongoing challenges faced by serving personnel in their transition to civilian life, and the part the rugby community can play in supporting this. Reinforcing the deep-rooted connection between the sport of rugby and the military was critical to the success of the bike ride and the challenge raised a fantastic £7,500 for the charity.
Keep an eye out for announcements on next year’s planned bike ride marking the centenary of the First World War Armistice. More details to follow.